Globe and Mail Examines Issues Surrounding Launch of Lesotho's Campaign to Offer HIV Tests to Everyone Over Age 12

Toronto's Globe and Mail on Wednesday examined the issues surrounding the launch next month of the $12.5 million Know Your Status campaign in Lesotho, which aims to offer an optional HIV test to every resident over age 12 by the end of 2007. The government has said it plans to hire 3,500 additional community health workers and train thousands more volunteers to help implement the program. People will be asked who they would prefer administer the "finger-prick" HIV test, which provides results "in minutes" -- either a community member or "outsiders to preserve confidentiality" -- according to the Globe and Mail. Officials also plan to offer prevention, counseling, treatment and other support options along with the tests, the Globe and Mail reports. Interviews with "peer educators" trained to encourage others to get tested "reveal a vast level of ignorance of HIV transmission, and such pervasive fear" that many say they themselves will not be tested, the Globe and Mail reports. In addition, much of the funding needed for the program has yet to be raised by donors. Organizers of Know Your Status, including the government and the World Health Organization, hope it will reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, but some critics say the goal is unrealistic and the program could create coercion. According to the Ministry of Health, 12% of women and 9% of men in the country know their HIV status (Nolen [1], Globe and Mail, 5/3). Lesotho has the world's third-highest estimated HIV prevalence, at about 30% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/7).

Globe and Mail Profiles Botswana's Routine HIV Testing Program
The Globe and Mail on Wednesday also profiled the "considerable success" of Botswana's routine HIV testing program, which was implemented in 2004. The program offers optional HIV tests to every person who visits a health clinic. According to Khumo Seipone, head of HIV prevention and care for the government, 89% of people have agreed to take the test when it was offered at a clinic. About 202,000 people were tested for the virus in the first 18 months of the program, and 80% of pregnant women now are tested, counseled and, if necessary, treated for the virus (Nolen [2], Globe and Mail, 5/3).

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